If you want to achieve something in life, you have to plan it. You have to write down your goals, create your list and develop a plan. In the modern world of laptops and smartphones, it certainly makes doing all of this so much more convenient, but to me, there is still nothing like taking a pen to paper.
I have been drawn to art and the written word since I was a child and even as a businessman, I find myself sketching out ideas, creating visual concepts and drawing out my thoughts with images or designs.
I prefer taking notes with a pen and paper. For me, I feel like I retain the information and process it better because I am physically writing it out. But I also just enjoy the art of writing, the inconsistency of the letters, the way the pen just flows on the paper. It has more of a connected feeling rather than having the letters just typed out on a keyboard.
But I want to share something with you. As a high school dropout, I never truly understood how to take proper meeting notes. That is until I was in a board meeting and someone called me out. They had noticed that I always had my notebook and pen, but never took notes during the meeting. I believe honesty is the best policy, so I told them the truth. I didn’t really know how to take meeting notes. We ended up in a conversation on how everyone took notes and their personal style with it. It was an incredible meeting and I learned a lot. I transitioned from just using it for the creative process of my career to integrating it into the more strategic side.
Like anything in life, I believe that you have to have the right tools to fit your lifestyle. For me, I had custom linen cards made for my suit pockets that are about 2.5 inches by 5 inches with my name letter-pressed in a burnt orange. I always carry 3 of these on me at all times and use them for note taking, jotting down ideas or explaining a design in a lunch meeting. And truthfully, sometimes I will end up using them to give out my information. I don’t believe in business cards and never carry one. Of course, I always carry a small Mont Blanc pen with me just for this purpose.
In this picture, I have one of my favorite pens, a Limited-Edition Montblanc Masters for Meisterstück white porcelain rollerball pen. It is handcrafted with white Meissen Porcelain with a platinum-plated cap top and mother of pearl Montblanc emblem. The platinum-plated clip has an individual serial number and three platinum-plated rings embossed with the Montblanc name. The details of this pen are incredible, but is the weight of this pen that makes it my favorite for signing checks, contracts or writing letters. It will put you back about $2500.00 but is worth every penny. And yes, I do have different pens for different projects or purposes. If I am sketching a design, I like to use a fine liner, where if I am signing checks or contracts, I prefer a rollerball. To take a step further, I also like different pens based on what I am wearing at the time. For instance, if I am wearing a rose gold watch and cufflinks, I will use a rose gold pen in my breast pocket of my suit. And as far as brands, my favorites are MontBlanc, Montegrappa, Smythson & Cartier.
Now, the notebook. You need to start with a quality notebook cover. For me, that is usually a buttery leather or an exotic skin. I love crocodile, ostrich and even lizard. In the image above, I have one of my favorites, the Hermès orange ostrich, and leather notebook. Hermès does an excellent job with quality and craftsmanship. Each notebook is handcrafted with a saddle stitch that provides strength and repairability. They also use a very high-quality stationary grade paper in every notebook that feels and looks like Vellum. Which brings me to my next point.
The paper. The paper itself is very important. When I sign agreements, I use a heavier paper grade that matches the weight of the document. But when I am sketching or designing, I prefer Vellum, preferably made from calfskin, because of its ability to capture the finest detail. The modern version is still considered one of the finest materials for drawing, but it just doesn’t have the strength, durability, and clarity as the original. When we were designing the logo for CCCXXXIII in London, we wanted to use the original Vellum to really show every element of the design on a quality material that will last.
Listen, you have to do what works for you. For me, having a beautiful notebook and pen encourage me to use them and get creative. After working in front of a computer screen for hours, there is just something about sitting down with a pen and paper and letting the ideas flow. Trust me, you will your plan in no time and will genuinely enjoy the journey it took to get there.